A doctor treating the recently released 110 Israeli hostages says at least 10 women and men suffered sexual abuse in captivity. Meanwhile, mounting first-hand accounts of the 7th October massacre show that among the most horrific of the atrocities committed by Hamas barbarians were acts of the most depraved sexual violence against women and girls. The silence from women’s rights groups and others who are consistently vocal about this most heinous of crimes has been deafening. For example, it  has taken eight weeks for the UN to finally issue a condemnation of the reports of sexual assaults that took place during the massacre on 7th October.

Graphic accounts from survivors of the attack and those who prepared bodies for burial detail acts of gang rape and mutilation carried out against women and girls.

It has been difficult finding rape survivors, with many victims killed by their attackers, and investigations were hampered initially by the fact that physical evidence of sexual assault was broadly not collected on the day of the attacks due to complications posed by the evidence being located in an active warzone. Many of the bodies arriving at the emergency morgue set up at the Shura military base were so badly mutilated that collecting physical evidence of sexual assault was not possible. Police say they’re combing through 60,000 videos seized from the body cameras of Hamas attackers, from social media and from security cameras, as well as 1,000 testimonies of those who survived the 7th October attacks.

A report published by the BBC on Tuesday shared the account of a survivor of the slaughter at the Supernova music festival, where some 360 people were killed.

In the testimony, the anonymous survivor referred to only as Witness S. recounts watching a group of terrorists shoot and kill a woman at the same time as they continued to abuse and assault her body.

This week Prime Minister Netanyahu accused the international community of ignoring the suffering of Israeli victims. Speaking at a press conference after a meeting with released hostages and relatives of those still hostage, Netanyahu said, “I heard heartbreaking stories of abuse. I heard, as you have heard, about sexual abuse and unprecedented cases of cruel rape.”

But, Netanyahu said, he has not heard women’s and human rights groups “scream” against the sexual violence by Palestinian terrorists who invaded southern Israel on October 7, and he asked if they were “silent because it was Jewish women.”

“I say to the women’s rights organizations, to the human rights organizations, you’ve heard of the rape of Israeli women, horrible atrocities, sexual mutilation — where the hell are you?” said, switching to English to emphasize the point.

“I expect all civilized leaders, governments, nations to speak up against this atrocity,” he added.

During a fundraiser in Boston, Biden echoed Netanyahu’s condemnation of international organizations.

“Reports of women raped — repeatedly raped — and their bodies being mutilated while still alive — of women corpses being desecrated, Hamas terrorists inflicting as much pain and suffering on women and girls as possible and then murdering them. It is appalling,” he said.

“The world can’t just look away at what’s going on. It’s on all of us — government, international organizations, civil society and businesses — to forcefully condemn the sexual violence of Hamas terrorists without equivocation. Without equivocation, without exception,” Biden added.

The United Nations in particular has been criticised by Israeli rights groups, after close to eight weeks went by before they issued a condemnation and committed to launching an investigation into the allegations.

On 30 November, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres broke his silence on allegations of sex crimes and called for the allegations to be “vigorously investigated and prosecuted.”

The following day, 57 days after the brutal Hamas attacks, the women’s rights group UN Women released a statement condemning the events of October 7, but drew criticism after leading with “regret” that fighting had resumed between Israel and Hamas in Gaza.

On Monday, Israel’s Permanent Mission to the UN led a special session at the UN headquarters in New York to raise awareness about the crimes committed against Israeli women and girls.

“On October 7, Israel suffered its most brutal massacre since the Holocaust; the atrocities were more barbaric than ISIS, some say more than the Nazis,” said Israeli Ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan at the outset of the event. “Families were burned alive, children executed in front of their parents and parents executed in front of their children.

“But the crimes didn’t end there: Hamas used rape and sexual violence as weapons of war. These were not spur-of-the-moment decisions to defile and mutilate girls and parade them while onlookers cheered; rather, this was premeditated,” Erdan said. “Sadly, the silence of international bodies who are supposedly defenders of women has been deafening.”

Concern for remaining hostages

There is understandably on-going concern for the remaining hostages in Gaza. A doctor who treated some of the 110 Israeli hostages released from Gaza told the Associated Press that at least 10 men and women among those freed were sexually assaulted or abused.

US State Department spokesman Matthew Miller suggested on Monday that Hamas is holding onto the hostages because it does not want them to testify about the sexual abuse they experienced in captivity.

“The fact that they continue to hold women hostages, the fact that they continue to hold children hostages, just the fact that it seems one of the reasons they don’t want to turn women over they’ve been holding hostage, and the reason this pause fell apart, is they don’t want those women to be able to talk about what happened to them during their time in custody.”